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Publishers Refuse to Become Complicit in Texas Book Banning

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Texas’ HB 900, which will require book vendors to review books and rate them, determining if they are “sexually explicit” or “sexually relevant,” is set to go into effect September 1. And now, the country’s largest book distributor to schools, Follett School Solutions, has asked publishers to rate their books.

Thing is, what constitutes as acceptable under the new Texas law is largely unclear, and guidelines on how to rate books still hasn’t been provided, which Follett officials have acknowledged.

That’s not the only reason, or even the main reason, that publishers haven’t taken to rating their books, though. One publishing exec said that doing so would make them “complicit” in book banning.

In a statement, publisher Hachette said, “We strongly disagree with the idea that rating our books to flag certain content, or having retailers or wholesalers do this, is appropriate or helpful. We trust our teachers, trust our librarians, trust our parents, trust our student readers who are hungry to experience the world in all the ways that books allow.”

They continued, “As publishers, we want our books to reach the broadest possible readership. That readership comprises individuals with unique tastes, reading levels, and lived experiences…It is our hope that laws that seek to limit access to books and that criminalize teachers, librarians and booksellers will be struck down as unconstitutional”

As the September 1 intended start date of HB 900 grows closer, oral arguments for the lawsuit filed opposing the law have been scheduled for August 18th. The filers of the suit include two indie Texas bookstores, as well as the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund, the Authors Guild, the American Booksellers Association, and the Association of American Publishers.

Find more news and stories of interest from the book world in Breaking in Books.